Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blog in Transition....

If you're following this blog, I'm moving it to a new location:

See you there!

Thank you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Equipment, New Portraits...

I ordered some new off-camera flash accessories just before the new year.
That accomplishes three things:
1. it gets me the new equipment I crave.
2. The new equipment gives my clients better photos.
3. I can deduct the cost from my taxes.
In this case, the stuff I craved were some EZY softboxes from Lastolite. They're 24x24". They fold up very small for transporting. They're light enough to take on location. They're durable, although kind of expensive. They're compatible and made for using with my SB-800 Nikon strobes.
And, they provide soft, wraparound light that complements a person's face.

Rachel Morgan graciously agreed to pose for me again. We did several setups with the lights. The shot above is with one EZY Softbox just off to camera right and fired by pocket wizards. The sun was setting at Boca Ciega Park and I positioned her so that the sunlight coming through the trees was hitting her hair, providing a great, natural hair light that gives dimension, depth and a bit more power to the image.
This second shot is at the same location, same setup, but with a different backround. She's looking directly into the light. The beautiful boardwalks at this park give some depth to the image, as well as a juxtapostion of a beautiful model and the rustic, wooden walkway.

These next two shots were done in the studio.
The one above is shot with a single 24" softbox with an SB 800 flash inside. It's positioned to camera left. A second SB 800 is behind the tri-fold room divider (doing secondary duty as a studio backdrop). It's got a red gel over it.

And, the last shot below is classic glamor lighting for a woman. It's a clamshell setup. There's one EZY softbox high and directly in front of Rachel. There's a second one low and pointing up at her. This image required almost no post-processing. Besides a contrast adjustment, there's not much else done to make this image appear as you see it.

These softboxes are ideal for me. Most of my shooting is done in the field, on location...weddings, events, portrait shoots. I can pack up my portable studio, drive to my shooting location and unpack and set up for the shoot in mere minutes.

Do you need new headshots? Modeling comp cards? Family portraits? Corporate portraits with power? Call me. 727.504.9425

Monday, January 5, 2009

Casting on Craig's List

I've never used Craig's List before, but I won't hesitate to use it in the future.
I had a great first experience by placing an ad there for models to shoot.
Model Rachel Morgan (click on any photo for larger view)
I had some free time from shooting over the holidays and wanted to work on my modeling photography. I've done some before, of course, but have been studying lighting setups courtesy of and "The Moment it Clicks" book by Joe McNally. Both are great sources of information on photographic lighting. Both are also inspirational in their approach to photography and lighting.
As with any career, the times, they are a changin'. You must be able to grow, expand, improve and deliver superior products to your clients or they wont' be your clients for much longer.
With that in mind, I turned to Craig's List to recruit people who would pose for me while I tried some new lighting setups. In exchange, I'd give them a CD with some of the best images from the shoot to use in their own portfolios.
Rachel Morgan was the first person to answer my ad. Her response to my ad for "Free Modeling Photos" came in within 30 minutes of it being posted. I could have yanked the ad right then and had what I wanted: She has had some experience as a model, but she wanted to expand her portfolio.
She's 19 and a full time student in Sarasota. She's also a true professional who handles being in front of the camera with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
I have a feeling you'll be seeing a lot more of her somewhere in the public eye.
I'm almost embarrassed to tell you the simple setup for the top photograph. It's natural light, with a hair/separation, flash over her head. It's also a great headshot for opening doors.
I've seen a video of a casting director going through headshots. They go through them as rapidly as a Las Vegas blackjack dealer.
A vast majority of them are discarded rapidly. Why?
The photographs don't portray any personality....they aren't the kind of person they're looking for..or the photographs are less than top-quality.
If you're serious about pursuing acting or modeling, the headshot is the key to opening the doors for you. Don't try to use photographs that are shot by "my friend Willie, who's pretty good with a camera".
Hire a professional. It is the best investment in your career that you can spend.
Great headshots open doors that are notoriously tightly slammed shut.
Rachel's second shot above is lit with two umbrellas. One is high and to camera left. One is lower and to camera right. There's also a hair/separation light over her head.
This is an entirely different look for her, yet also a powerful photograph that will capture attention. I cannot help but think "Audrey Hepburn" when I look at it. It's a combination of the lighting and of Rachel's pose and appearance. Classic.

Rachel Morgan
Rachel wanted some 3/4 length shots for her portfolio, so we moved out to the front of my home. I think it's an effective, powerful photograph of an engaging model. Anyone want to hire her?
This photograph is lit with a mixture of natural light and a tungsten, continuous light softbox.
One last photograph of Rachel. Again, natural light with a hair/separation light. We shot about 300 frames in a few hours. She looked unbelievably beautiful in each and every one of them.
Ultimately, about 20 people responded to my Craig's List ad, but based on the results and experience I got with Rachel and Mike Hall (below), I was done. No more free photography for models and actors. I gained some confidence and experience with various lighting setups and some excellent portraiture for my portfolio.
Mike Hall is a professional kite surfer who has never modeled before, yet had a desire to try it.
He looks like he just walked off the pages of Central Surfer Dude Casting.
Mike Hall
Sunset at Indian Shores.
Mike is holding his kitesurfing board. He's lit from camera right with a mid-sized umbrella with a SB-800 Nikon flash firing through it.
He's actually much more intelligent than his appearance would lead you to believe. He's also warm, engaging and a very nice guy.
One of his desires for doing this photo session was wanting to acquire a sponsor for his kitesurfing career. He wanted photographs to send to potential sponsors and I believe that we shot some great ones. Looks and appearance are very important when a big company is looking for people to promote their products.
Mike, I think, is destined to be the poster boy/man for kitesurfing.
Mike Hall
This shot was natural light as the sun was going down. Mike's never posed before, but his confidence is high, rightfully so.
Mike Hall
I love the look of boardwalks like this one. I actually ride my bicycle on this boardwalk almost every day and think constantly what a great place to do some shooting. It winds through mangroves and ends poking out into the Intracoastal Waterway. Studio in a bottle, so to speak.
It's got color, foilage, rustic boards, soft light in some places. All it needed was a confident model to show up.
He's lit with a mid-sized umbrella in front and a bare bulb flash shooting straight up from behind him for a hair light.
This last photograph of him is his headshot. It's lit the same way as the shot above, but with the hair light is off to the side to give him some separation from the Mangroves.
Mike Hall
I didn't tell Mike what to wear for the shoot. I simply told him to bring a few different tops that he felt good in. This blue top is nearly the exact color of his eyes and the results are a dramatic, powerful headshot that shows confidence and marketability.
Mike and I have another shoot to do. We're anxious to do some action shots of him kitesurfing in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm planning on the action and power of these shots and how to shoot them for maximum impact. I do plan on shooting him silhouetted against a setting sun, as well as light him in the air with a strobe on the ground.
I've also ordered some new portable softboxes and plan on shooting Rachel again once these arrive.
I have to admit that I feel refreshed and invigorated again following these shoots and am quite anxious to work with some new models and actors.
I'll work with any aspiring actors/models for reasonable rates.
No more freebies, though.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dog Blog

Ruby (left) makes a new friend.
I love dogs.
I know that's not an earth-shattering statement. Everyone that has a dog loves them. It goes with the territory like the warm greeting at the door when you get home, like the puppy dog eyes you get when it's dinner time, like the creative sculptures you get to pick up every day.
One woman I heard recently put it best: "I could never give them as much as they give me".
What do they give me?
Incredible affection and attention.
Undeniable love.
Constant companionship.
Great photo ops.
This is a photo blog, right?
I take my 6-year old German Shepard/Chow mix Ruby to the dog park at Boca Ciega Park almost every day. When I began doing that, I just loved to watch her play with the other dogs, run off some of her extra weight and get stroked and petted by other dog lovers there who cannot resist her sweet disposition and incredibly pretty face.
She thinks it's a human park where she can soak up attention from other dog-lovers.
I think it's a photo op just waiting to happen.

Ruby makes friends with a pit bull.
(click any photo for larger view)

And relaxes under cover of Narnia, the gentle Newfoundland.
Dog parks are also great places to work on your photography skills. The action can be wild when they're wound up and chasing one another, playing and doing the other things they enjoy so much. Photographing a pack of dogs playing is a like photographing a sporting event. You have to anticipate the action, be ready at all times, look for and capture the peak action as well as the emotions the dogs display.

Rocky the Beagle (one of my favorite subjects because he's so animated, playful and cute) gets chased, overtaken and passed.

Imagine the series above in your local sports section of the newspaper, but instead of dogs, the photos show a head-to-head race between two high school track stars chasing the state championships. Do you see the correlation? Can you see the series above featuring track stars?
Good. I hope my point is well-taken.
Rocky gets chased by a German Shepard. This shot shows the technique called panning.

I normally go to the dog park about 4:30 in the afternoon. It's when many people are starting to get off work and get their dogs out to play after being home alone all day. It's also the time when the sun is beginning to get lower in the sky and the dog park is losing the afternoon light that illuminates it. Subsequently you must shoot with higher ISOs and slower shutter speeds to capture the action. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In the shot above, I'm "panning" with the dogs as they run, or moving my camera and body at the same speeds as the dogs are running and clicking the shutter with a relatively slow shutter speed. In this case, it was 1/40th of a second. The results are that you get the blurred backround, which makes a person sense the movement of the dogs. You also get blurred legs on the dogs which helps to illustrate the speed at which they're running.
Again, you've probably seen this kind of photo in many sports photographs of runners, swimmers and other sports figures.
It's a technique that requires practice and patience. If you use too fast of a shutter speed, the motion you're looking for is stopped and you don't get the blurring of the legs and backround. If you use too slow of a shutter speed, you get too much of the blurring and it makes the dogs unrecognizeable.

This shot of an Australian Cattle Dog uses the same panning technique, but with a faster shutter speed (1/80th of a second). You can see that you get less blurring on the backround and on the legs of the dog, but still get the sense of motion.
I mentioned peak action above as something you want to be prepared for when photographing at a dog park, or anywhere for that matter.
This is Roxy the Pit Bull being suprised from behind by Ruby the Newfoundland. I'm not going to include the whole series here, but there were about 4 other frames of Roxy in the foreground of the shots I took with Ruby sneaking up behind her. This is the final frame as Roxy discovered the sneak attack.
Peak action, again. Rocky playfully bites Roxy's hind leg while playing at the Boca Ciega Dog Park.
Ruby the Newfoundland plays keepaway with a dog frisbee.
Ruby the Newfoundland plays tug-of-war with two black labradors.
Ruby joins the fracas.
From a photography standpoint, Dog Parks are wonderful places to practice your skills. They're also great places to meet other people who share your passions.
Shoot what you love and your photos will reflect your passions.
There's one more reason why shooting at a dog park can be an incredibly rewarding experience: The cuteness factor. All dogs have it. They're like children in the way that their faces are perfect and their actions are adoreable. Who could resist this Brichon Frise?
On the other end of the cuteness scale, this Neopolitan Mastiff mix below. This is more of an illustration of a portrait of a dog as opposed to the other techniques I mentioned. Dog parks are great places to practice your portrait techniques. But, beware, shooting dog portraits is like shooting a child's portrait: They don't pose, take direction well, listen, sit still or appreciate your efforts to cast them in the best possible light.
And, they don't smile on command.
But, with a face like this, you don't have to.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chris and Dawn

Chris and Dawn met at roulette table #12 at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City.
It was a gamble both were willing to take and it paid off in ways that no casino could ever dole out from any cashier's booth.
They fell in love and got married .
Chris has been a great friend for about 8 years. We met when we were both working for a TV station here in Tampa Bay. He's a great reporte and is now reporting and anchoring for KSTP in Minneapolis. I was honored when he asked me to come to Atlantic City to photograph his wedding to Dawn on October 4.
I've been photographing weddings for long enough that I don't feel stressed about shooting them, but when it's your friend's wedding, you want to do a great job. There is a little stress involved.
The easy part about shooting this for them was that they're both great looking people. Dawn is stunning, petite, dark hair and eyes. Smoldering, yet endearingly sweet.
All the girls at the station adored Chris. I remember one woman saying one day when he came back from a storm story that he "looked like a little puppy dog that you just want to hug". He's the kind of man that everyone should have for a friend. He's loyal and open, incredibly fun.
This was bound to be a memorable weekend.
One of my favorite photos from the wedding preparations is this one of Dawn's dad in the backround with Dawn and her two sisters in the foreground. I think it's an heirloom that should be in the family for generations.
I think the photographs will tell you the story better than I can write it.
Chris waiting for his beautiful bride to walk into his life. The poster behind him is the one friends had unfurled while Dawn and he flew overhead in a helicopter. That's a proposal!
Dawn and Chris pose in the setting sunlight.
First Dance.
Chris pulled some strings and got the Borgata Casion to give us permission to shoot photographs at the roulette table where they met. They are surrounded by friends and family. One guy who said he had just lost $5,000. at that table refused to move so we could take the photos. Security escorted him from the area.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Do Whatcha Gotta Do

Lindsey Rose Belcher is my new hero.
She is followed closely behind by her father, FOX-13 reporter Charley Belcher and American Idol David Cook.

The three have a bond that was formed when Charley was in Hollywood covering the American Idol competition and mentioned to David that Lindsey Rose had picked Cook, during the preliminary rounds, to win.

Charley also mentioned to David that seven-year-old Lindsey had been diagnosed with leukemia on Christmas Eve, 2007 and that the orange wristband with the motto "Do Whatcha Gotta Do" Charley was wearing was the catchphrase that father and daughter had come up with to help cope with the painful, invasive treatments she was going through.

David Cook, bless his generous heart, asked for one of the orange wristbands. He wore it through the rest of the competitions and wears it to this day.

The next time he makes an appearance, anywhere, look for it. I guarantee it's there.

Lindsey Rose and David met in person when the Idol show came to Tampa last month.

Here's the link to the story as it aired on FOX-13:

Lindsey Rose shows off her "I Love David Cook" t-shirt.

You would have to be dehydrated to not shed a tear after seeing the joy in Lindsey Rose's life when meeting her Idol for the first time.

And, you'd have to be a little cold-hearted to not feel great respect for David Cook, a young man literally at the top of the world who has adoration from millions of fans, yet takes the time, energy and emotions to form such a bond with one little girl and give her (and her parents) hope, love and immense joy during the most challenging, unpredictable, painful times of their lives.

I've been numbed a bit after being in the news business for as long as I have been, but this was a story that I couldn't ignore. I was moved beyond belief.

I had met her father Charley while covering a few news stories together. He had always been friendly and seemed like a truly nice man.

I called him and offered to do a portrait session with Lindsey Rose.

Lindsey Rose and her biggest fan, her father Charley.

Charley told me it's something they had been talking about: documenting Lindsey Rose as her hair started to return after her initial bout with chemotherapy. He said they'd love to do a shoot with her. But, was she up to it?

Charley said yes, she loved attention and was looking forward to "her photo shoot", as she called it.

Lindsey Rose turned out to be a true professional in front of the camera. She was comfortable, calm, extremely beautiful and had a smile that hours of shooting couldn't erase.

We shot under studio lights, natural light and at the beach with a mixture of both.

Charley Belcher provides the light for Lindsey Rose's photo session.

She loved it, as you can see from this selection of photos.

I loved it at least as much as she did. I was shooting someone far more important than any celebrity, bride and groom or news story I've ever shot.

I was shooting a young girl, facing and overcoming challenges that I couldn't begin to imagine and doing it with the courage that many adults cannot accomplish.

What's my point?

There are several of them:

1. Support any childhood cancer foundations that you can find. Tampa Bay has many organizations and health care facilities that specialize in childhood cancers. Give donations and volunteer.

2. If you're a photographer, GIVE part of your time away. Find a non-profit organization that you believe in, a family in need, a couple getting married who cannot afford you for your services or any of a million causes that could use your skills to further their message or document their accomplishments or people. There are Heart Galleries around the country who use the services of volunteer photographers to shoot portraits of hard-to-adopt children. They place the portraits in high-traffic areas like malls, libraries, etc. to try to catch the attention of prospective, adoptive families and make them fall in love, just a little, with a young child in need of a family. (I'm the photographer coordinator for the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco. We can always use new photographers.

3. Hug and love your children every day that you can. Charley told me it was ok if I wrote about this shoot if it helped to open the hearts and minds of people that every day with your children is a gift and to never take it for granted. He said that when he looks back before she was diagnosed, he wishes that instead of watching the Buccaneers play, he would have spent that day playing with Lindsey Rose. He wants Lindsey Rose to move people, to affect positive change and she does.

There's a very special bond between these two that I was lucky enough to witness and to document.

Thank you Lindsey Rose.

You are my American Idol.

Lindsey Rose had to be "forced" to not smile. I told her she doesn't have to smile to be beautiful. All she has to do is walk in the room.
Lindsey Rose's support page:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Teresa and Matt, July 27, 2008

Some weddings almost shoot themselves.
(click any photo for larger version)
That was the case last weekend when Teresa and Matt got married at the Esperanza Mansion along the Finger Lakes in Bluff Point, NY.
As you can see, Teresa is model-beautiful. Matt is, heterosexually-speaking, the same.
The mansion is also a gorgeous locale for a wedding. It sits high on a hill, with one wing of the Finger Lakes stretching out below it. It makes for a great backdrop, although that's not as important to me when photographing a wedding as capturing the love between the couple and the joys shared between the families and friends who come to celebrate the union.

This group was the epitome of great people. Many times when you're shooting a wedding, you've never met the family and friends of the couple, so you're an "outsider" trying to fit in, make people comfortable with you and most importantly: Capture great photos. In this case, I hadn't even met Matt and Teresa until I showed up at the Mansion a few hours before the ceremony. We had done all of our conversations via email or on the phone. Since it was a referral from another couple's wedding, along with the fact that they were in NY and I in FL, we hadn't met in person. They trusted my work and dedication to my clients.
By the end of this wedding and reception, I truly felt as if I had made some friends from among the guests. That's a wonderful by-product of wedding photography. This is Teresa's brother Michael and his girlfriend Tori. They're two of the people I bonded with during the day. I even tied Michael's tie for him while shooting Teresa's "getting ready" photographs. And Tori has already emailed me asking me if they could get some of the photos I took of them during the day.
So, why did this wedding almost "shoot itself"? The answer is sprinkled all through this writing. Gorgeous couple, great friends, great fun, great location, friendly family members and a beautiful baby boy, Seth, Teresa and Matt had brought into this world. He's a very lucky kid. He'll be raised in a wonderful home, with loving parents and doting family and friends.
I fell in love with him immediately. I think he did the same with me.
Seth couldn't keep his eyes off of me. We actually had many laughs during the day when Teresa and Matt were loving on him and he couldn't stop looking at me. The admiration was entirely mutual.

A few words about technique:

One of the things I learned in my initial photojournalism training way back in 1984 in the US Navy was "shoot the action, shoot the reaction". In other words, during a wedding, the ceremony and the couple is not the only thing you should be photographing. The shot below is one example. Teresa's father is all man, yet couldn't contain his emotions during the ceremony. If you click on the shot to make it larger, you'll see the redness in his eyes. He showed overwhelming emotions of watching his daughter get married and I'm sure he tried to keep them supressed. He wasn't entirely successful as you can see. The people At the wedding are there for a reason: They're important to the couple and deserve to be in the final albums. Shoot the guests relentlessly.
Shoot the action...shoot the reaction.

I have many techniques that I like to use when shooting weddings. I had mentioned before that I like to use a 200mm lens on one of the cameras I shoot with during a ceremony. That allows me to stand back, out of the way, but still pull in the beauty and joys apparent in the faces of the bride and the groom. I also use it to shoot the exchange of the rings. There's something more powerful about this close-up of the exchange to me than of a wider shot. As a photojournalist you should always shoot the wide shots and the tight shots that show the details of the wedding in ways that people perhaps didn't notice. From their seats 12 feet away, no one could see this intimate look at the ring exchange, but it's such an important detail to me to capture.
Many times I change this shot to a black and white image. I think it's a timeless, classic way to show this, but in this case I left it in color due to the wondeful greens of the lush valley that was a backdrop for the ceremony.
One more trick I'll share with you. When i shoot the kiss, I don't just shoot the kiss. I like to mesh the "action-reaction" shot with the actual kiss-at-the-end-of-the-ceremony shot. It shows the kiss, of course, but also the reactions of the guests who are watching it.

I also love to do this photo in black and white, but deliver the color version of it as well.

Here are a few other portraits that we shot while the guests were eating their meal. I don't like to keep the couple away from their guests but in this case, Matt and Teresa had already eaten, so I dragged them out to the front of the Mansion to do a few more portraits while everyone else was served and ate their meal. They were both troopers and even laid on the grass for me. I don't know if they got grass stains on their clothes, but I do think these shots are worth it.
The sun had set when we shot this last series of portraits. The portraits on the grass were shot with a silver umbrella, bounced with an SB-800 flash set at 1/4 power. The shot with the blue, set-sun, misty light over the Finger Lakes in the backround was shot with a shoot-through, white umbrella with the flash set at 1/4 power. Notice how soft, romantic that light is?
(Thanks to for teaching me how to use my sb-800 Nikon flashes to their fullest. )

Many photographers don't like to and will not shoot weddings. I can understand why. They can be stressful because you're being trusted to document one of the most important days in a person's life. Gear can fail. You might meet a "Bridezilla" who likes to rant, complain and make people miserable.
I've never had either of those in my life.
I always carry backup gear for everything I bring to photograph a wedding and it's tested, cleaned and re-tested before every wedding. I've never met a "Bridezilla" either. Perhaps it has a lot to do with my calm nature, but I've been fortunate.
I don't get stressed about shooting weddings. I feel totally confident that no matter what the day brings, I'll be ready to deliver heirloom photographs. I've been doing this a long time and always look for the fun, beauty and emotion of a wedding shoot.
I LOVE shooting weddings. Teresa and Matt's day was a perfect example of why.
Like Matt is here, however, I do enjoy a cold brew at the end of the evening.